A Phone Call Away

My son had been without medication for about a year. Despite that worrisome situation, he at least appeared to be stable.  Then the decline started.

This time it’s a slow setback, like lava moving down the side of a volcano. I know that at any moment it can burst into flames. So far, it hasn’t. I wait for the crisis phone call.

For some families, the crisis comes suddenly and maybe unexpectedly. Like it did for my friend, I’ll call Stephanie.

Stephanie’s daughter, Rosa (not real name), suffers with bi-polar disorder. After several years of trying to balance her medications, Rosa seemed to have found the right combination. She was living on her own, had a part-time job, and taking college classes. Rose was also active in the local NAMI chapter.

I saw Stephanie at the grocery store one day and commented how well Rosa had looked when I saw her at a meeting the night before. I told her that Rosa had asked me to go to a specific event with  her next week, and Stephanie countenance changed dramatically.

“What is it?” I asked.

“That’s not a good sign,” Stephanie told me. “When she wants to go there, she’s decompensating.”

I could tell from the look on her face and the concern in her voice that I hadn’t given Stephanie good news. Just like that, this family was heading to a crisis. Sure enough, two days later Stephanie called to tell me that Rosa was in the hospital. It had been two years since the last hospitalization.

I often warn family members that a crisis is only a phone call away. I’m not trying to be negative, just realistic. For some of our loved ones, stability with the right medication combination and support seems to last. For others, it does not. We never know what column our loved one will line up in.

Don’t be discouraged. Be prepared. Just like earthquake or hurricane preparation, you can better ride out the crisis when you know what to expect and how to handle it.

See “Stages of Coping.”

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